VANCOUVER - Workers at the Canfor (TSX:CFP) sawmill in Quesnel, B.C., cried and hugged each other in the company parking lot after hearing the facility would be permanently shut down and they'd lose their jobs.
"We're all in total shock," said Baljinder Johal, choking back tears. "It was pretty emotional for the guys out there. For myself, I've got a wife and two kids and we haven't decided what our future is going to be."
Johal, 40, said Friday that he was called back to work for the 3 p.m. meeting in the lot on Thursday, after leaving at the end of his shift at 7 a.m.
"Here at Canfor, in Quesnel, we've got great employees with great hearts who did everything for the company, whatever they asked and more," said Johal, who began working for the company straight out of high school in the "beautiful community" where he was born and raised.
Johal and his colleagues were laid off for six months in 2010, but returned determined to keep the mill, which is a huge part of their town, even more vibrant than ever before.
"Our guys pretty well gave their hearts and souls to the place to make sure we do everything to keep the mill running," he said, adding the news was so devastating that he, along with others, couldn't bare to work the night shift on Thursday after sharing the news with their families.
Along with Canfor, West Fraser also announced Thursday that it would shut down operations in Houston. The closures are expected to happen next March.
Both companies blame a lack of timber — due to the pine beetle infestation across swaths of British Columbia forests — as the reason for their decision, saying they would make provisions for their employees.
More than 400 people will lose their jobs.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the closure of the two sawmills in the province's interior is not unexpected because of the pine beetle, although the Steelworkers Union said workers who are in shock obviously don't feel that way.
Frank Everitt, president of Local 1-424, said that while fibre supply has been a problem because of the beetle, the closures came as a surprise at this point.
"You can't imagine the effect it has on folks simply because that's the whole community, that's their neighbours. Sometimes you've got two and three generations that work in the mill."
He said the union will work with the companies and the province in efforts to transition workers to other employment.
"For the folks who just got the announcement there's more to be done," Everitt said of Thomson's comment that the government has invested $880 million in diversification programs since the beetle epidemic took hold.
New Democrat forestry critic Norm Macdonald said the government has known for years that mill closures were possible because of the pine-beetle epidemic but it had no plan to protect workers during the fibre crunch.
"They've had internal reports that have said years ago that we can expect it around this time period, the beginning of closures," Macdonald said.
He said a report on the matter was tabled about two years ago, but previous reports delivered similar predictions on the employment front.
"To have nothing in place for what was predictable for eight to 10 years is a massive failure in leadership and there are people who are going to bear the brunt of that failure," he said, adding that doesn't make sense considering the Liberals' much-touted jobs plan.
Macdonald was the mayor of Golden, B.C., when the Evans Forest Products mill shut down before it was bought in 1999 by Louisiana-Pacific. He said all the workers kept their jobs.
"We had a jobs protection commissioner that was in place and he brought the resources of government," Macdonald said of the then-NDP government's strategy and the position that was brought in by the Social Credit government.
Macdonald said the plywood mill switched to making laminated veneer in the region that is not affected by the pine-beetle epidemic.
"There has to be resources and energy put in place for the fibre shortfalls that are coming," he said, adding communities that are so dependent on forestry need transition plans.
However, Thomson said the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training will be dealing with the workers over the next six months to help them transition to new employment if that is necessary.
"I think the critic is misinformed to say there is no recognition of this and no planning taking place," Thomson said from Beijing while he is on a forestry mission to Japan and China.
"The pine-beetle coalitions have been looking at diversifying the economies," he said, adding he will be discussing the issue with his colleagues in other communities.
Canfor has said its 209 workers in Quesnel will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company and West Fraser has announced it will help its 225 Houston-based employees to transition into other positions within B.C. and Alberta, where possible.
The companies also said they have agreed to exchange timber rights, with Canfor taking over forest tenures to support its mill in Houston, while West Fraser will acquire timber for its Quesnel sawmill.
Also on HuffPost:
Cookie Smith shows off a normal egg and a "super egg" Wednesday, May 30, 2012, in Abilene, Texas. Cookie Smith went to collect eggs from her three laying hens on Monday afternoon, and discovered one normal egg and one "super egg" in her coop.
Dog With World's Largest Eyes
Bruschi, a four-year-old black and white Boston Terrier, who lives with his owner, Victoria Reed, in Grapevine, Texas, holds the Guinness World Record for "dog with the largest eyes" -- a whopping 1.1 inch in diameter.
This May 9, 2012 photo provided by the New England Aquarium in Boston shows a rare calico lobster that could be a 1-in-30 million, according to experts. The lobster, discovered by Jasper White's Summer Shack and caught off Winter Harbor, Maine, is being held at the New England Aquarium for the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island. The lobster is dark with bright orange and yellow spots. (AP Photo/New England Aquarium, Tony LaCasse)
30,000 Bees Stuck In New Jersey Attic
Bee removal expert Gary Schempp removed a 25-pound hive from the attic of a home in Cape May, N.J. The hive had 30,000 bees living in it.
An English man named Brian Watson killed a large rat his granddaughter's boyfriend found while cutting grass on April 21, <em><a href="http://news.sky.com/home/strange-news/article/16213384" target="_hplink">Sky News</a></em> reports. The water rat was so large, Watson broke a boat paddle trying to kill the critter.
Giant Shark Caught In Mexico.
Two fishermen in northeastern Mexico claim they netted a dead great white shark estimated to be near 20-feet-long on April 15, 2012.
This March 8, 2012 photo shows Nicole Andree feeding a hamburger to her dog, Prada, a 4-year-old pit bull mix, at an animal control facility in Nashville, Tenn. Andree is fighting a lengthy legal battle to save her dog's life after the animal was ordered euthanized for attacking other dogs.
Homer Simpson Fish
The Stargazer fish which bears an uncanny resemblance to Homer Simpson. (Caters News / Getty Images)
Kitten Found In Car Engine
After driving about 85 miles to Santa Cruz, Calif., a man discovered that this runaway kitten had been inside his car's engine in March 2012.
World's Smallest Dog?
At two weeks old, Beyonce, a Dachsund mix born at a Northern California animal shelter, is just under four inches long and is in the running for the title of World's Smallest Dog. Here she is pictured resting on an iPhone.
Piglet In Hotel Lobby
This adorable injured baby pig was found roaming a hotel lobby near Honolulu's airport. The Hawaiian Humane Society renamed her Pukalani and says she'll be available for adoption later in March.
Cat Cafes Threatened In Tokyo
TOKYO - JANUARY 20: A woman strokes a cat at Nekorobi cat cafe on January 20, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. Changes to Japan's Animal Protection Law threaten the future of these furry bars by imposing a curfew on cats and dogs. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
A Woolly Mammoth In Siberia?
This newly released video taken during the summer of 2011 allegedly shows a living woolly mammoth crossing a river in Siberia. There is much speculation and debate as to whether this is, indeed, a living specimen of prehistoric elephant-related animals that were thought to be extinct.
Albino Penguin -- Jan. 2012
A rare, mostly white-colored penguin was discovered in Antarctica in early January 2012. The picture was snapped by naturalist David Stephens.
'Cupid' The Cat -- Jan. 2012
This stray orange tabby in Houston earned the nickname 'Cupid' after he survived a piercing shoulder to shoulder wound in January 2012. A vet safely removed the arrow and 'Cupid' is expected to make a complete recovery.
Lucy: World's Smallest Working Dog -- Nov. 2011
Lucy, a mini Yorkshire terrier from Absecon, New Jersey, is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. Weighing just 2 1/2 pounds, Lucy was named the world's smallest working dog last week, bumping out a 6.6-pound police dog in Japan.
Polydactyl Kittens -- Jan. 2012
Undated Cats Protection handout photo of 4-month-old polydactyl kittens named Fred (left) and Ned (right), currently in the care of Cats Protection, Gosport Town Branch in the United Kingdom. They will shortly be going to their new home once they've been neutered. Ned has an extra eight digits, while his brother Fred has 10 more than the usual 18, making a total of 54 digits between them.
Crocodile in Belgium -- Dec. 2011
A man holds a crocodile with tape around its mouth, as workers from the Natuurhulpcentrum, a wildlife rehabilitation center, collect several crocodiles at a villa in Lapscheure, near the Dutch border, on Dec. 22, 2011. Police discovered eleven Nile crocodiles and one alligator (all alive) in a villa rented by a German man, Rolf D., during an investigation into financial fraud.
Booie The Smoking Chimp Dies
Booie, a chimpanzee that kicked a smoking habit and used sign language to beg for candy, died at the age of 44 at a California animal refuge in mid-December.
Taxidermied Squirrel -- Dec. 2011
Rick Nadeau has saved up quite a nut by creating taxidermied squirrels that he puts in unusual outfits. He sells his works starting at $65 all the way up to $200.
Giant Crocodile Captured In Philippines -- Sept. 2011
In this Sept. 4, 2011, photo, Mayor Cox Elorde of Bunawan township, Agusan del Sur Province, pretends to measure a huge crocodile, known as Lolong, which was captured by residents and crocodile farm staff along a creek in Bunawan late Saturday in southern Philippines. Elorde said that dozens of villagers and experts ensnared the 21-foot (6.4-meter) male crocodile along a creek in his township after a three-week hunt. It was one of the largest crocodiles to be captured alive in the Philippines in recent years.
Skywalker The Rodeo Bull Gets Stuck -- Nov. 2011
Skywalker, a rodeo bull in Hawaii, could not eat or drink while a 50-pound tire was stuck around his head. A ranch hand was able to pry it off after Skywalker exhausted himself, allowing the worker to get near the cranky animal.
Gorilla Check-Up -- Oct. 2011
Yakini the gorilla received a medical check-up from vets at Melbourne Zoo before being moved to a new multimillion-dollar exhibit at Werribee Open Range Zoo, on Oct. 28, 2011, in Melbourne, Australia.
3-Eyed Nuclear Fish -- Oct. 2011
Fishermen landed a three-eyed fish in Argentina near a nuclear reactor in October 2011.
Earthquake Dog -- Oct. 2011
Roman Akisen carries Cip, a 5-year-old German shepherd who found 18-year-old Imdat Padak alive under the rubble of a collapsed building more than 100 hours after a magnitude 7.2 quake, in Ercis, Turkey, Oct. 28, 2011.
Tiger Goes To The Dentist -- Oct. 2011
Dr. Doug Luiten drills the tooth of Kunali, a 300-pound, 7-year-old Siberian tiger, during root canal surgery at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, Alaska, Oct. 20, 2011. This was the first procedure in a recently opened operating room and the first for the zoo's new veterinary table, complete with hydraulic lift and fold-out leafs to accommodate limbs and tails.
Moose In A Pool -- Oct. 2011
This New Hampshire moose was swimming a little too deep, forcing nine rescue workers to help remove it from the pool.
Mass For Animals -- Oct. 2011
Gil Florini, of Saint-Pierre-d'Arene's church, blesses donkeys with holy water after a mass dedicated to animals on Oct. 9, 2011, in the southeastern French city of Nice.
World's Smallest Living Cat -- Oct. 2011
Fizz Girl, a Munchkin Cat from San Diego, Calif., has grabbed the record title for Shortest Living Cat. Measuring in at just 6 inches tall from floor to shoulder, Fizz Girl weighs 4 pounds, 2.3 ounces. Munchkin cats are a special breed that have little legs caused by a naturally occurring genetic mutation.
Kayaker Snags Shark -- Sept. 2011
This is the jaw-dropping moment a canoeist landed a 6-foot shark after it dragged him through the water for 10 minutes. Brave Rupert Kirkwood, 51, had paddled a mile off the United Kingdom's Devon coast when he suddenly felt a snag on his line. The 70-pound beast nearly pulled him overboard, before pulling his 16-foot canoe through the water as he desperately clung on. After 10 minutes of wrestling with the beast, he eventually hauled the massive fish on board.
Baby Elephant at San Diego Zoo -- Sept. 2011
A newborn African elephant lifted his trunk in search of his mother at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In this rare moment, the calf stood alone after he had wandered off a few steps, but shortly thereafter, his mother, 5-year-old sister Khosi (koh-see), and 2-year-old brother Ingadze (in-Gahd-zee) rushed over to tend to the unnamed calf. The Safari Park is now home to 18 elephants (eight adults and 10 youngsters).
Elephant Polo -- Sept. 2011
Elephant polo players from the Spice girls team (left) and the British Airways British Army team battle it out for 5th place during the final day at the King's Cup Elephant polo tournament Sept. 11, 2011, in Hua Hin, Thailand.This year marked the 10th edition of the polo tournament with 12 international teams participating for the unusual annual charity sports event.
Orangutan Quits Smoking
An orangutan in Malaysia is kicking its smoking habit. Wildlife officials have removed Shirley from a state zoo after the captive primate was regularly spotted smoking cigarettes that zoo visitors had tossed into its enclosure.
Boy Suckles From A Cow
Tha Sophat, a 20-month-old Cambodian boy, suckles from a cow in Koak Roka village, Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. Tha Sophat started suckling the cow in July after he saw a calf do the same since his parents moved to Thailand in search of work, said his grandfather UmOeung.
This Little PIggie Has Two Snouts
This tiny porker has an excuse for making a pig of himself at mealtimes. He really does have two mouths to feed. The bizarre two-month-old youngster -- part of a litter born on a farm in northern China -- can use both his mouths to eat and appears otherwise normal, say his owners.
A moose is seen stuck in an apple tree in Gothenburg, Sweden, September 6, 2011. The police believe the moose was trying to eat apples from the tree and became intoxicated by fermented apples. The moose was freed by police officers and after a dose on the lawn, he sobered up and returned to the woods.
Woman Punches Bear to Save Dog
Brook Collins holds her dog, Fudge, at her home in Juneau, Alaska on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. Collins punched a black bear in the snout after the bear attacked Fudge on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Elephant with Prosthetic Leg
Motala, age 50, rests in the afternoon sun with the new prosthetic made for her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve August 29, 2011 Lampang,Thailand. Motala lost a foot many years back after stepping on a land mine and now is on her third prosthetic, as they need to be changed according to the weight of the elephant. The world's first elephant hospital assists in medical care and helps to promote a better understanding of the elephant's physiology, important in treating them for illness. For generations elephants have been a part of the Thai culture, although today the Thai elephant mostly is domesticated animal, since Thailand now has few working elephants. Many are used in the tourism sector at special elephant parks or zoos, where they perform in shows. In some cases Thailand is still deals with roaming elephants on the city streets, usually after the mahout, an elephant driver, becomes unemployed, which often causes the elephant serious stress.
Elephant in Water Reservoir
Indian army personnel use a bulldozer during a rescue mission to save a wild elephant trapped in a water reservoir tank at Bengdubi army cantonment area some 25 kms from Siliguri on August 30, 2011. A wild elephant fell into the water reservoir tank as a herd crossed the area. Army personnel of 16 Field Ammunition Depot along with wildlife elephant squad of Mahananda wildlife sanctuary joined forces to save the animal.
Open Rabbit Sport Tournament
Lisa Marie Bach leads her pet rabbit Marie through an obstacle course in the middle-weight category at the 5th Open Rabbit Sport Tournament (5. offene Kaninchensport Turnier) on August 28, 2011 in Rommerz near Fulda, Germany. Eighty rabbits competed in light-weight, middle-weight and jumping-for-points categories at today's tournament in Rommerz that is based on Kanin Hop, or Rabbit Hopping. Rabbit Hopping is a growing trend among pet rabbit owners in Central Europe and the first European Championships are scheduled to be held later this year in Switzerland.
Hippo Goes To The Dentist
North Carolina Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis recently returned from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where he helped perform a dental procedure on a 3,000-lb. old friend. Loomis, along with veterinarians and keepers from the Parque de las Sciencias museums in Bayamon, conducted dental surgery on "Tomy," a 39-year-old male hippopotamus that the N.C. Zoo veterinarian has been treating on a semi-regular basis for two decades.
Dolphin's Fake Tail
Winter, a six-year-old dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, lost her tail when she was three months and now uses a prosthetic tail made especially for her.
Otis The Skydiver
"Otis'' the pug gets his harness put on him before making his 64th skydive at the Parachute Center in Acampo with his master, veteran skydiver Will DaSilva of Galt. Otis knows that harness means he's going skydiving and sits patiently while it is put on him.
John Huntington poses with one of his chickens on a lead in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 15, 2011. Mr Hungtington's 'City Chicks' are chickens for those living in an urban enviroment, complete with small walking leads and harnesses and elasticised nappies. 'City Chicks' will be showcased at Sydney's ABC Gardening Australia Expo.
A dolphin flips in the air and splashes water over a watching crowd during a summer attraction at an aquarium in Tokyo on August 17, 2011. Theme parks and attactions such as this one are booming in August when many people try to beat the summer heat by visiting indoor attractions.
Sprinkles The Koala
'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia, August 9, 2011. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Sprinkles The Koala
Veterinary specialist Dr Rod Straw holds 'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Mobile Home Filled With 154 Reptiles
Inside Walter Kidd's North Carolina trailer home were 154 reptiles, including cobras, vipers and Gila monsters. About 100 of the animals were dead and frozen, according to the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.
Camel In The Family
It's not every day you can say that a camel has shared your breakfast - unless you're Nathan and Charlotte Anderson-Dixon. Each morning they and their 18-month-son Reuben are joined by pet camel Joe, who pokes his head through their conservatory window to help himself to something to eat. The three-year-old happily munches eats bread, fruit and cereal plucked from the table at the family's detached country farmhouse. Joe, who measures 17.5 hands, loves bananas on toast but hates toast with cheese or Marmite. He lives with four other camels but is the only one to share breakfast with his owners. The others have to eat hay, barley, straw and corn mix in their stable in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Nathan, 32, has owned Joe for two years and uses him for camel racing.
Camel In The Family
Charlotte Anderson-Dixon pushes her 18-month-old son Reuben on the swing as Joe the camel watches.
Camel In The Family
Nathan Anderson-Dixon, his wife Charlotte, their 18-month-old son Reuben, Joe the camel and a reindeer.